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Posts Tagged ‘Books’

In order to grow, we humans must face our fears and jump into the unknown, like the deep end of the pool. We need to cross barriers and borders in order to learn from one another, to understand the world, both the wild and the human side, in all its glory. It can be exhilarating and scary at the same time.

Otherwise, we would all be experiencing a life of quiet desperation.

The famous Henry David Thoreau quote always terrified me, even as a young girl. I remember riding along the NJ Parkway on family trips, looking at people in their cars as they passed by and wondering if they’d given up. Were their dreams a mere memory?

When Thoreau wrote “Walden; or Life in the Woods,” I thought he was telling us that we must become monks, and live in a hermitage far from civility in order to avoid the trap of conformity. Maybe that’s why we started our married life on a mountain in the Berkshires. And ended up building our first house together in the Blue Ridge. Living here in a city, has taught me that we actually do need people at times.

“The book describes an interesting experiment Thoreau made with his own life when he moved to live in a cabin in a forested area by Walden Pond, Massachusetts. Among many other things, the book advocates solitude, self-reliance, contemplation, proximity to nature, and renouncing luxuries as means of overcoming human emotional and cultural difficulties. Thus, Thoreau in fact suggests in the book that people can stop leading lives of desperation and can improve their condition. The Walden experiment was initiated by the conviction that there is no need to go on living in desperation, quiet or not.” Psychology Today 

This year has been so (insert overused word, like “unprecedented”). And like most things that we cannot control, we have all been trying to find ways around our semi-quarantine world. We have learned to Zoom, have groceries “Shipted,” to have plants curbside delivered, to visit grandparents through glass in a vestibule. Our vacations are put off. Some of us have lost jobs. Americans, in a communal way, have been quietly desperate for about 25 weeks now. And we’re getting bone tired.

Is it September yet?

Today, Bob and I are going to look at some RVs. In the past, I was never one to “renounce luxuries” and sleep on the ground in a tent. Now that I’m older, I’m still not! But the thought of traveling around with your bed in the back of a camper sounds mighty appealing. And not just for us, sales of RVs nationally have risen over 40% compared to last summer. https://www.forbes.com/sites/edgarsten/2020/08/03/rv-sales-rev-as-vacationers-avoid-hotels-air-travel/#29e7cd2a254bn

Granted, I have no idea what to expect.

Just as remote school has begun, and BIG news – today pedal taverns are allowed back on Broadway?? – this may be the moment to try something new!

The Rocker went camping last weekend in California, in a tent. But they couldn’t light a fire for obvious reasons. Still they loved it and brought their dog along. What if we packed up Ms Bean and headed west, escaped all the city noise, the hammering and digging and nail guns and leaf blowers, and stepped into the unknown world of recreational vehicles?

My Granddaughter had a virtual sleepover to celebrate her 8th birthday this weekend with her friends! Each kid has an iPad for school, and they were allowed to Zoom late into the night from the comfort of their own beds. Here is the Love Bug on her new wheels!

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Did anyone else watch that horrific footage of the Beirut explosion this past week and think of a nuclear bomb? Or has the world forgotten that we still have over 13 thousand atomic weapons waiting peacefully around the world to be deployed. https://fas.org/issues/nuclear-weapons/status-world-nuclear-forces/

There are nine men in control of the bombs we know about, nine with their fingers on the button of a blast that could level the entire earth.

Yesterday marked 75 years since America dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima in 1945. Three days later, we did it again in Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were incinerated or badly burned. The survivors are now well into their 80s. And yet, today the news is all about economic numbers and coronavirus graphs – nuclear disarmament isn’t on the radar of nationalist/strong/men leaders around the world.

Coincidentally, I’m right in the middle of July’s first edition book, “Inheritors” from Parnassus. It’s almost like reading a separate story every night; each chapter builds on the other with differing points of view from the same Japanese family two years after WWII ended. Right before sleep, before entering my COVID nightmares, I escape into a tragedy of the the war’s aftermath. How does one survive under American occupation? How will we survive this inflection point while trying to “reopen” our country? Here is what NPR has to say about Asako Serizawa’s masterpiece:

In the before times — e.g., pre-pandemic — the big thinking on social issues by institutional media, philanthropy and academia had reached a point of commodification — curated conversations about the nature and causes of oppression, public health, and public policy were (and still are) sold as revenue generating events. Fixing social problems meant having money and therefore access to policymakers. I’ve curated enough of these events to understand the impact monetized access has on the balance sheet of high profile think tanks and social justice organizations.

But the pandemic and upheavals in our civic culture forced a pivot. Now, we’re reckoning on fundamentals — on happiness, on good and evil. Now, ordinary citizens drive the conversations about solutions for the common good, in social media, through street activism, citizen journalism and grass roots litigation. This emerging civic culture is demanding access to solve tough questions: shall we re-boot the American idea? What are national boundaries for? Does American society need something else besides consensus government? What might that something else look like?  

“The Inheritors provides a stark scenario as one answer. These stories follow the impact of exclusion, of cultural and biological manipulation, of men turning away from humanity…” https://www.npr.org/2020/07/14/890571662/inheritors-maps-a-complicated-family-tree-through-the-centuries

A young photo journalist uploaded a picture of her high school’s crowded hallway in Georgia, no masks with students shoulder to shoulder, and she was suspended by her principal. She tweeted that she didn’t mind, this was “Good Trouble.”

The Groom uploaded a video urging Gov Lee to mandate masks in TN. Yesterday he spoke again from isolation, his voice not quite as strong, but his message was even stronger. https://fox17.com/news/local/tennessee-who-urged-gov-lee-to-take-more-precautions-tests-positive-for-covid-19

He is a critical care doctor battling this virus with courage. When I asked him if he’s losing weight, he said something that warmed my heart,

“No, your daughter’s love language is food.”

In our after times – post- pandemic – which way will the curve of equality and humanity go, what will keep us up at night? I have to believe our arc is trending toward Good Trouble.

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A Southern summer is upon us. You can smell jasmine in the air. In this Time of Coronavirus, the days seem to creep by slower and more deliberately. First up: watering the garden right after breakfast because later in the day would be miserable; temperatures soar past 90 and the humidity is at extreme beach hair levels.

I’m feeling confined again, not just from this pandemic but also from the Nashville weather.

Luckily, Bob and I did manage to get out of the house this past holiday weekend. The Bride and Groom were cooking hot dogs and veggie burgers so we sat on one side of their expansive front porch. Two old grandparents in a pair of rocking chairs! After a week of hugs and kisses in Florida I’m bereft, we are again consigned to making a beating heart with our fingers and blowing kisses. Our first socially distant Fourth of July.

Even in the shade, and with fans whirring above our heads, sweat ran down my back. Even their two rescue dogs snuck back into the cool, air-conditioned house, abandoning food and family on the porch.

The real excitement came earlier in the day while I was assembling a vegetable tart. The Bride texted me – “I’m going to West Elm to look at rugs, wanna come?”

You betcha! A big, beautiful store? Why I haven’t been inside anything but a Whole Foods in months, during “senior” hours. Bob gave me his quizzical look, the one that says do you really want to risk your life over a bunch of tchotchkes? But I DID. I wanted to get out of the house, alone in the car for awhile, and wander around this hip, modern furniture store on the fancy side of town. With my daughter. Wearing masks of course. And it was delightful.

Everyone in the store was wearing a mask, and it was very early so there were just a few customers. The soaring ceiling gave me an extra level of comfort. I sat in swivel chairs. I picked up dishes even though a sign said “touchless shopping” was appreciated. Mea Culpa. We looked at rugs, all kinds of rugs; some with wool from New Zealand and some that resembled a Jackson Pollock painting. We were looking for an 8×10 to go into her new library – shelves had been built after all, and she wanted a cozy rug.

A soft, cozy rug to entice her little digital natives to curl up with a book.

But then I spotted one man in the store, walking around holding a mask in his hand. It wasn’t on his chin, or over his mouth right under his nose, which is another pet peeve. I guess he was too lazy to actually put it on on his face? He trailed behind his wife and a store employee, both in masks, and I had such a visceral feeling of contempt. Is he stupid? Does he feel like the rules – specifically for a mask mandate in public – don’t apply to him? He was not abiding by this social contract, he was threatening all our lives.

My daughter had just finished an evening shift in the ER, she had worn an N95 the night before for eight hours straight, and we were wearing our homemade cloth masks in the store. Our first time in a store. The least he could do was #MaskUp. To be clear, most people in Nashville are now wearing masks in public. We are still in the business of making masks for neighbors, in fact, the Grands like to count the number of masks they see whenever they ride in a car.

I really wanted to confront the mask-in-hand man, but I just steered clear. After all, what if he was a “Florida Man?” What if he started yelling at me, accusing me of taking away his freedom? What if he called the police? After all I’m a “Jersey Girl” so I wouldn’t back away from a fight.

I wonder, is a “Florida Man” the male equivalent of a “Karen?” I know lots of lovely Karens and hate this sobriquet for a middle-aged, white entitled woman; it seems like just another sexist remark. Maybe we should all stop using mean, stereotypical words to describe the human race!

Besides I just finished a Qigong class with my Florida man via Zoom. He lives in Gainesville and is absolutely kind and generous! I’m sure he wears a mask in public. And now I have to set up the yoga mats for Pilates Zoom with Bob.

Come to think of it, this hazy, lazy summer is starting to get busy!

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Yesterday, I woke up and felt the day looming large. Every morning Bob asks me what’s on our agenda, which should be funny right? My reply was “Absolutely nothing!” I was somewhat short and slightly incredulous while trying to smooth out a bumpy start to another day in quarantine. Day number 62 or 63 or 64? After coffee, I reconsidered.

I wanted to change the sheets, I needed to do a Shipt grocery order, and before long the Bride called because she needed Bob to print something out for her. Kids today don’t have printers. Or landlines or clothes lines. Or cable TV.

This morning is different. I woke up on clean sheets and thought to myself, “Hooray it’s Tuesday.” Today I’ll be writing and listening to Dr Tony Fauci on CNN speak remotely to a Senate panel about the coronavirus. Bob’s planning on listening to SCOTUS discuss Mr T’s taxes on NPR. We’ll be having a dueling listening party in our separate offices/guest bedrooms with a background of birdsong in the garden. Deciding our lunch plans seemed a long way off.

Yesterday, I also remembered I wanted to mend a pair of pants, an old, soft corduroy pair of Eileen Fisher pants that I love. So I picked up my iPad to scroll through Pinterest because I knew I had saved a tutorial on the Japanese art of Sashiko under my “Corona Crafts” board.

Time really flies on Pinterest! Before long, I realized I’d ordered the wrong iron-on facing and I was going to need an embroidery hoop. I thought I had embroidery hoops because I’d made dream catchers for the Grands with ribbons of feathers since we’d moved to Nashville. So I opened up my overflowing office closet and began organizing my jewelry making materials while looking for an embroidery hoop… My office was littered with beads and unfinished knitting projects.

I was also trying to find a picture of me at 13 so the Love Bug could compare me to Hayley Mills. Then my phone dinged and it was Vanderbilt texting to tell me that I had an eye doctor appointment. “Text YES to confirm or NO.” And for a day with nothing planned, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. I’ve never been great at multi-tasking, but could I be developing adult-onset ADHD?

Now Dr Fauci is talking about the “inevitable return of infections,” and I thought about the wisdom of our Native people. A governor in South Dakota is threatening to sue native tribes for attempting to keep the virus out of their community by setting up roadblocks, “checkpoints,” on state roads.

“The chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, Harold Frazier, issued a statement in response to the governor on Friday, saying: “We will not apologise for being an island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death.”

“You continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation,” he added.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52615311

Our country has infected Native Americans before, we have thrown them off their land and herded them into reservations like the Cheyenne River Sioux, who have only one hospital with no intensive care beds. It happens that my Parnassus First Edition Club book this month is all about tribal history. “The Night Watchman” by Louise Erdich.

Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s  grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.”

Today Dr Fauci is “cautiously optimistic.” I wish I felt the same way. I used to worry about violent, mentally ill patients in the ER when my daughter announced she was interested in Emergency Medicine. I never thought about a virus like this, even though Bob has dealt with Ebola, H1N1 and HIV over the course of his career. This morning the Bride called on her way to work, she is a courageous and resilient young woman, so I must let go of my fear. I must focus, and try to create an island of calm in the midst of this crisis.

I must order an embroidery hoop online. This was yesterday, in the garden.

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Democrats fall in love with their candidate, Republicans fall in line.

Spoiler alert! The last two (D) candidates to win both Iowa and New Hampshire were nominated and promptly lost their elections – Al Gore and John Kerry. Remember them? Kerry actually criticized Bush for the Iraq war, and let’s face it, that may have been too soon and his running mate, John Edwards, may have been too slick hiding a love child from his wife. But I still fell in love with both nominees, just a little.

This is why I’m not too concerned with the first NH primary today. I want a man (or a woman – love is love) who can flip the Senate blue. I’m waiting to see who will give me goosebumps. The way Brad Pitt did at the Oscars, gently scolding the GOP for disallowing witnesses.

Is it just me, or did anyone else not see any of the Oscar nominated movies this year? Well wait, Bob and I did see the first half of “The Irishman” in our local artsy theatre… but it was getting past someone’s bedtime, so we left via an Uber. Did DeNiro kill Hoffa? I’ll have to catch up on Netflix.

Netflix was the star attraction this past weekend when we joined some friends to watch “Knives Out” at their home. In this historic row house, a screen surprised me descending down a wall, with a projector hanging from the middle of the ceiling. It was almost like going to the movies! I have such serious home envy whenever I set foot in that home.

And to top it off, we had two big, fluffy dogs who would come to attention and bark whenever there were dogs in a scene!

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery on a cold rainy night? I won’t spoil the plot of “Knives Out” by saying that current political issues figure prominently when the investigator, played by Daniel Craig with a Southern accent, focuses his attention on a nurse named Marta. The privileged white clan/cast cannot seem to agree on what South American country Marta’s family has immigrated from – Paraguay, Ecuador?  https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/11/the-unlikely-hero-of-rian-johnsons-knives-out/602701/

Immigration politics swirls around the story of my night table book, “American Dirt.” First of all, it was one of my monthly First Edition Parnassus Bookclub picks, that arrived in its burlap sack a few weeks ago. I’d already been hooked by American Dirt’s violent opening chapter when I started reading the criticism on Twitter. At first I thought well maybe the author, Jeannine Cummins, isn’t Latina, so undocumented folks and those who love them were skeptical. But she had also initially claimed her husband was an immigrant, without saying he’s from Ireland. Cummins cancelled her book tour.

The novel follows the story of a Mexican woman and her son fleeing to the United States after a drug cartel massacre.
Cummins, who spent five years writing the book, isn’t Mexican or a migrant. The book, which was just published January 21, immediately sparked debate about who can tell what story and diversity within the publishing industry.
It also faced criticism for its reliance on migrant stereotypes, with many pointing out that if an author is going to write about someone different from them, it must be done well. “American Dirt,” some have said, was not — though the book has also been praised by a number of prominent authors.  https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/29/us/american-dirt-jeanine-cummins-author-tour-cancel-trnd/index.html

Is this what we mean by cancel culture? Was Joaquin Phoenix onto something in his Oscar speech before he swerved into the cow/milk controversy? Urban Dictionary tells us this culture is a direct result of social media and people who are, “…quick to judge and slow to question.”

Let’s ask the hard questions of our our Democratic candidates as they head into prime time and super Tuesday. Bloomberg can understand what a single mom is going through, he doesn’t have to be one. I believe a writer should be able to write about anything – a man can write from a woman’s point of view, and vice versa. If I’m writing about the Jewish mob, I need not be a member of that group, I can do the research. And I’m not ready to cancel anyone out of our primary process. I haven’t fallen in love, not yet.

Except for these two chocolate-teeth cherubs!

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Despite the political punditry of the past week, Bob and I reluctantly tuned into the Democratic debate last night. I think we can all relate to Mayor Pete’s “exhaustion;” I’ve been suffering from lack of sleep for months now. It’s not just the emotional drain of the impeachment conclusion, it started with simply not being comfortable on “My Pillow.” Yes, I succumbed to the infomercial for the supposedly best pillow made in the USA, thinking that might help my neck pain.

But finally getting treated for “moderate” facet joint osteoarthritis by a competent physical therapist has done the trick.

The Bride and Groom and I attended a Parnassus author event with Rick Wilson last week. His latest book is, “Running Against the Devil, a Plot to save America From Trump – and Democrats From Themselves.” What a title! He likes to swear. He tells it like it is. And he wasn’t giving me much hope either; still, like a good journalist I took notes.

“Do not run on boutique issues in a Walmart nation.”

We all laughed, but underneath I felt a tinge of anxiety – isn’t this just like calling T’s supporters “deplorables?” Still, I was thinking about that quote while listening to candidates debate health care and gun violence in New Hampshire. Wilson was telling us we need to be laser focused to beat Mr T in November.

When Tom Steyer finally started talking last night, it was as if a light shone down on him. “It’s the economy, stupid!” Republicans are happy with things the way they are, so why should they change? And why is Steyer always wearing that red plaid tie? Could somebody please get the man a stylist. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/tom-steyer-democratic-debate-defeat-donald-trump-949773/

In fact Wilson told us the election is already over in 35 states. Let me repeat that – “The election is already over in 35 states.”

California will vote for the Democrat and Alabama will vote for you/know/who. So now it’s a toss-up for which Democrat can convince those fifteen remaining electoral college swing states that are still in play; states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. Who can WIN that prize? A Democratic socialist for the progressives or a  pragmatic centrist for the middle? It’s up to us to decide, and Iowa wasn’t a sure bet.

Lucky for me and thanks to my PT, I slept like a baby after Iowa. No wonder sleep deprivation is such a great torture device! In 1985, when I finally awoke from the first 6 months of the Rocker’s life of non-stop ear infections, I realized I wasn’t in fact INSANE. Today clarity has returned again, and with it the feeling of Democratic doom. After listening to one ex-Republican strategist tell us we need to put Bernie out to pasture, I read ex-Democratic strategist James Carville’s “We’re Losing Our Damn Minds” interview. Read it and weep: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/2/7/21123518/trump-2020-election-democratic-party-james-carville

Following another miraculous, good night’s sleep, this morning over eggs I was talking with Bob about Mike Bloomberg. He wasn’t even on the stage last night, yet like a ghost he prodded the discussion. I didn’t like how Elizabeth Warren just went off about his billionaire status and “buying” the election. It panders to the “Us vs Them” eternal argument. Isn’t America all about making it BIG, the Horatio Alger stories? Twitter is abuzz with calling him just another “oligarch.” It made me think about how Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton actually used to be NYC friends.

And that’s it, healing our nation means finding out what we ALL have in common. Disaffected Trump voters and Independents can lean into student debt forgiveness, actually expanding the ACA with the option of Medicare. Talking about racism in New Hampshire was preaching to an all White choir; save that discussion for South Carolina. In fact, lead with that discussion in Florida. Don’t lead with guns in Florida, despite Parkland – Floridians like their guns.

And talk about immigration for goodness sake. Did I miss that topic last night? That’s how Mr T got elected, reducing his theme song to 4 letters on a red cap. We lost the rest of the world when we started separating families on our border, Democrats can win in November if we remember our humanity, what our country stands for – it’s written at the bottom of a certain statue in NY’s (or NJ’s) harbor.

Bob said last night, “It’s stupid to argue whether you go to Medicare in 4 years or 8 years!” Let’s not quibble over the particulars Democrats, we need a candidate who can beat Trump. Who is he most afraid of? It used to be Biden …and Biden “…of 10 years ago” as Wilson said, was a contender. If it takes another billionaire to defeat Trump, I’ll take him. Steyer or Bloomberg, sure they’re just two more old White guys who happen to be rich AF, but hey do you want to win? Pair Mike or Tom with Elizabeth or Amy and you’ve got a ticket, you can stop chasing windmills.

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It’s one thing to write about your life, and another to dig deeper into the details of one’s life. Bob told me he learned something from my last blog post, which is an important thing to do in any relationship – keep surprising people! The Flapper always said you should “…leave them wanting more,” a theatrical reference about curtain calls I think. But it’s also a pretty good life mantra; end your career at the top for instance, don’t descend into dementia on the job. Anyway, in case you are interested…

1. I’m a real Fan Girl. I’ve met two of my folk/rock/pop idols and tried hard not to gush, but the fine art of small talk just drifts away in the presence of greatness. Last year it was EmmyLou, but when we used to drive out to the Vineyard every spring with the little Love Bug I met Carly Simon in a clothing store. I probably turned red as a beet!

2.  I was once a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Back in the Berkshires, I convinced a friend to take the 6 month course with me. We pushed on a life-sized doll’s chest to try and get her heart beating again, “Annie, Annie are you OK?” Right after we graduated, the city of Pittsfield hired professional firefighters, so our days of volunteer work were done.

3.  Serious Crafting used to be my jam. Like Little Women everywhere, I was told that idle hands are the devil’s playground; thanks Music Man. It all started with quilting, I made aprons and pillows, blankets took way too long. Then I started knitting, mostly kids’ stuff and scarves, though I did once knit a sweater that got me stopped at Heathrow Airport. Today, I dabble with stringing pearls into eternity necklaces.

4.  I try to hide it, but this writer is a Porcelain Snob. It started way before Downton Abbey; maybe it’s the reference to homemaking, for a kid who never settled into anyone’s home. I recently had a dream where I had to explain that I wasn’t IN the foster care system, I just had foster parents. No big deal. But like a true Jersey girl, I never pay full price for my dishes. Great Grandma Ada and I traveled to Trenton to pick out my set of Lenox at the warehouse… this was when it was made in the good ‘ole USA!

5.  While my blog is named Mountain Mornings, I am definitely NOT a Morning Person. I mean I do like to start writing in the mid-morning, but coffee is de rigueur. I could stay up all night reading a good book, btw currently reading Margaret Renkl’s “Late Migrations, a Natural History of Love and Loss.” It’s a terrific antidote to the times, lulling me to sleep with short snippets of her childhood in rural Alabama juxtaposed with her current life in the city of Nashville. I cannot recommend this beautiful book of essays enough.

6.  I have (or maybe had is the better tense) an uncanny ability to Predict Trends. My fails are: I finally started painting my nails, and it still feels funny; and dyeing my eyebrows which is really funny! My wins are: I knew gaucho pants were looming on the horizon, and smartly avoided purchasing them.  I saw the snap bracelet coming from far away, same thing with oxfords for grown women. I was wearing this comfortable shoe long before Taylor Swift. It troubles me to report that I just bought my first pair of orthotics, per a sports medicine doctor who said I have a healing stress fracture in my foot. Thank you old age.

7.  Last but not least, I now have a Love/Hate Relationship With the Beach! My kids grew up on the Jersey Shore, and before that we’d travel to the Vineyard all the time. Later on, our paradise in the French West Indies was a continual winter retreat. I loved going to bed with sand in the sheets. But now, all that sunshine has crept up on me. Over the years, a dermatologist has been scrapping dubious patches of skin off my arms, hands, and nose. Looking “tan” has lost its cache, relegated to the ash heaps of time and cigarettes. Not that tanning was even possible for me. This explains my hat fetish! Still, my diagnosis of guttate psoriasis means I need some sun every day! What to do?

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Loneliness isn’t just for the elderly anymore. Half of all adults in this country have suffered from feeling left out, alone, and bereft of any meaningful connections. In fact, the acronym FOMO sums up a generational fear that actually surpasses their fear of cancer!  https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#57f19e297676

“Yet of all age groups, Generation Z — anyone ranging in age from 18 to 22 — seems to be particularly impacted. According to a recent study conducted by Cigna, Gen Z is significantly more likely than any other age group to say that they experience feelings that are associated with loneliness; 68 percent said they feel like “no one really knows them well.” Cigna gave Gen Z a “loneliness” score of 48.3 out of 80. “

In this Instagram age, where our lives get filtered through a rosy lens, young people are comparing and contrasting themselves to others constantly. How many “Likes” did they get, how many “Followers” do they have? It’s a non-stop, personality quiz show that often leaves them lacking, and sleep-deprived. Why are there less face-to-actual-face opportunities out there, that would allow a friendship to flourish?

Look around the next Barista Parlor (ie coffee shop) and you’ll see singletons transfixed by their computer screens.

I just finished a book that tackles some of these questions, “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” by Gail Honeyman. The protagonist sits in any office, a loner who rarely speaks until spoken to, and seems as if she’d dropped out of the last century – her archaic language, her long, straight hair, right down to her sensible shoes. We’ve all known someone like her, and we fall for her anyway.

Given the number of books about dementia, memory loss and other mental health issues, it is surprising that it has taken profound loneliness this long to take centre stage. It is, after all, by many accounts one of the great scourges of our age, when everyone is meant to be having the most amazing time eating avocados with their friends on Instagram.  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/04/eleanor-oliphant-is-completely-fine-by-gail-honeyman-review

Eleanor is prodded to help care for an older man who falls in the street, which starts the ball rolling toward connection. “Was this how it worked, then, successful social integration? Was it really that simple? Wear some lipstick, go to the hairdressers and alternate the clothes you wear?”  she says, after noticing her status change in the office.

She’s asked to organize her company’s Christmas Party! Which leads me to the opposite of FOMO – JOMO, the Joy of Missing Out!

For that person who has 3 parties to attend in 2 days, sometimes saying “No” is the best thing you can do for your health. Holiday anxiety is not just for the dysfunctional family, it’s true for working couples trying to cope with traditions like baking cookies and sending out cards, while putting up a tree and getting the kids to school on time. Carving out a little self-care time (yoga, meditation, reading) for themselves is crucial.

I’d almost forgotten the last Christmas party, but was happy to be with friends who had the courage to ask for Trump’s impeachment on their holiday card! And when they gushed over our holiday card, I said, “Oh good, you liked my messy kitchen in the background?” Because a messy kitchen is the sign of a gourmet cook!

Being raised an only child, I actually crave time alone, time to sit with my thoughts, to read or write, maybe binge watch The Crown. But it’s easy for me to say, since I’m lucky enough to be able to step back into the stream of family and friends at any time. If you know someone who might be lonely right now, knock on their door. Set another place at your table. Take them on a holiday lights tour!

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This morning I came across an article about the old Mid-Life Crisis, for our kids’ generation. It’s not what Boomers would consider a crisis – you don’t leave your wife and children, lose 20 pounds and buy a Porsche. It’s a more nuanced place, when today’s 40-50 year old couple hits the pinnacle of their careers, they have two kids and two dogs and maybe a Peloton in the family room. But they wake up one morning wondering if they could have had more, or done something differently.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner writes eloquently about today’s rough patch in her book Fleishman is in Trouble.  https://forge.medium.com/welcome-to-the-new-midlife-crisis-6ad07840a503

“First, the people who reported having an age-related crisis in their forties or fifties were also highly likely to have reported dissatisfaction or anxiety in their younger years as well. If you are besieged with self-doubt at midlife, in other words, it is most likely not your first existential rodeo.

And second, the stereotypical midlife crisis is a luxury. No more than 10% to 20% of middle-aged people go through one,… It takes privilege to chuck everything and start anew.”

I always told Bob he’s not allowed to have a Mid-Life Crisis because he went to Woodstock, and really, enough is enough. We’ve weathered lots of storms, moves to different states, rebellious teens, Bob’s back, shoulder and neck surgeries, and even my bout with West Nile. Talk about an existential crisis.

I had to smile the other night when John Meacham asked a group of scholars “What keeps you up at night?”

“Viruses,” Carl Zimmer said!

Zimmer was the most entertaining panelist, a journalist who writes about science and even has a tapeworm named after him! He has written many books and currently writes the column, “MATTER” for the New York Times.

Bob reminded me, in that Vanderbilt auditorium surrounded by really old people and really, really young students (presumably because mid-lifers were home putting their kids to bed), that Zimmer was the son of a former Representative from our old district in NJ. “Carl Zimmer’s father is Dick Zimmer, a Republican politician from New Jersey, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997.”

I thought about our home in Rumson, NJ, about living on a tributary with a tide ebbing and flowing into our backyard, and mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes.

I was writing for The Two River Times then, I was Forty-Something. And if you’ve been following me for awhile you know where this is going.  I like to think my tiny column for the paper helped to unseat the elder Zimmer after he voted to allow the Assault Weapon Ban to expire. I asked my readers how he could look at himself in the mirror every morning.

The Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Lecture Series was addressing, “2020 and Beyond: Tackling Global Issues in the Decades to Come.”  Most of the conversation onstage was about Climate Change. Meacham began with, “Are facts out of fashion?” The other two academics pointed out that OUR very own EPA Climate Change web page has been erased! If you search for it you’ll find a notice that says, “The information you are looking for is not here” and you are directed to the archives!!

How can we address Climate Change or viruses when we have a Climate Denier in the White House? How can we possibly reduce global greenhouse gases by 50% in 15 years?

2020 will be a “Rough Patch” for our country. But I believe in good journalism and our Constitution. Facts are funny things that will take down Republicans seen lying on TV, lying and obfuscating all week at the Impeachment Hearings – “Clouding real facts with a miasma of falsity,” the Vandy Writer-in-Residence said.

George Washington helped us forge this great nation, and Abraham Lincoln helped heal our still seeping wound of slavery. A Leader will appear to guide us through this collective Mid-Life Crisis. I have to believe as Brodesser-Akner said about mid-life:

“To mature is to accept one’s role as both a person with pain and one with strength to endure it. It is the ability to say to oneself or to those we love: I see you. I hear you. I will sit here with you until it passes, as all things must.

The view out my kitchen window of our hawk in the city.

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In the cacophony of calls for impeachment yesterday, Bob found a small brown package tucked behind the pillow on our front porch. Surprise, it was the Parnassus Signed Edition book of the month, Emma Donoghue’s 12th novel, “Akin.” An unlikely pair, a retired NY professor and his great-nephew take a trip to the French Riviera to discover a family secret. The cover art is gorgeous “…. a 1930s shot of the Promenade des Anglais by Swiss photographer Martin Hürlimann.” I cannot wait to dig in!

Today I’m wondering if Mr T will actually ever end up in prison. Memes are exploding everywhere, blurring the lines of reality and news. Will he fly away in a helicopter only to be pardoned by our next madam president? Does the French Riviera suit him, like it did Wallace Simpson? Or maybe he’ll end up imprisoned in his very own hotel in Moscow, not quite a gentleman, but “Oh. Well.” Things could be worse.

After all, here in MAGA Land we have 2.2 Million people in prison and, according to the New York Times, their reading material is severely censored.

“A prison in Ohio blocked an inmate from receiving a biology textbook over concerns that it contained nudity. In Colorado, prison officials rejected Barack Obama’s memoirs because they were “potentially detrimental to national security.” And a prison in New York tried to ban a book of maps of the moon, saying it could “present risks of escape…. It is not possible to tally the total number of books banned because many restrictions are set in secret. But news reports have found that banned book lists totaled 20,000 in Florida, 10,000 in Texas and 7,000 in Kansas, according to the report.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/27/us/banned-books-week-prisons.html

Apparently, we have something called “Banned Books Week” https://bannedbooksweek.org/ this very week of all weeks – sponsored by the American Library Association, which was quite a surprise. The First Amendment protects our freedom to read and speak as we choose, so we should all try to read at least one banned book! Seems they don’t just ban books in schools anymore. I remember when the Rocker wrote an essay in middle school about how much he hated censorship. I was one proud mama.

Remember when we used to wait for President Obama’s reading list to be published? Now those were the good ole days (sigh). If Mr T takes time away from devouring Fox Network, he probably keeps track of his stock portfolio and skims trade and golf magazines. Maybe he checks out the latest fashion models from Hungary. He might benefit from some non-fiction about the Nixon years, or better yet, T would benefit from any presidential biography by Jon Meacham, my personal heartthrob. He wrote this on Twitter last night:

“Pretty straightforward calculation for Republicans: Do you want a President who seeks to use a foreign power in our elections, or do you want us to remain sovereign? That’s the heart of the matter. ” 

I’ve already lived through an impeachment of a president who lied to us about dangerous liaisons in the Oval, and parsed the meaning of “is.” I’m afraid the coming months will uncover many more high crimes and misdemeanors, more lies and false equivalences. Because Mr T is a master of the bait and switch and has shown us who he is over and over again.

In 2016 he asked Putin to help find Hillary’s emails – in 2019 he asks Zelensky to “Do us a favor” and dig up some dirt on Joe and his son. His minions tried to hide his calls in a top-secret electronic system for classified information; they held on to the information for TWO months. I doubt he will leave the office gallantly. 

Here are two beginning readers working on name bracelets, starting to devour chapter books on owls, nasty cats and dolls. The future is female!

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